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North America, Canada, Purcell Mountains, Bugaboos, South Howser Minaret, Bad Hair Day

South Howser Minaret, Bad Hair Day. Late in August Lizzy Scully and I drove to the Bugaboo trailhead. After porcupine-proofing Lizzy’s Volvo with chicken wire, we began the approach. We hiked the first day to the Applebee Campground, a primitive camp surrounded by towering granite spires protruding from the glacier. The next day we hiked through the clouds and rain to East Creek via the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col and Pigeon-Howser Col. Setting up our tents at the base of the South Howser Minaret, we decided to try to free-climb this wondrous 2,500-foot hunk of granite. After hiking to every vantage point in the rain the following day, I sketched our proposed line.

Waking the next morning to perfect weather, we set off with Friends to #4, doubles on small TCUs, a set and a half of wires, two light ropes, three liters of water, Clif Bars, and a bivy sack, hoping to nab the first free ascent of the Minaret in a day. After two days of climbing and one night of shivering, we found ourselves sucking on icicles and celebrating on the summit. The route, an 18-pitch meandering line up the south face, afforded beautiful free climbing the whole way. Our line, which we named Bad Hair Day, linked short sections of established lines, with some new climbing mixed in here and there. We encountered hand cracks, offwidths, scary face climbing, and groovy flares.

Heidi Wirtz